An Unusual Obi Shin: Hidden Senninbari or Thousand Stitch Belt
mid twentieth century
128" x 11 1/2", 326 cm x 29 cm
An obi shin is a length of (usually) recycled, old cloth pieces which are joined together and used to stiffen or give form to an obi. Usually an obi shin is quickly assembled from scraps of old cloth, with not much attention to its aesthetic or its appearance: this length of cloth will never, ever be seen by the owner of the obi.
Sometimes small treasures are unearthed when finding old obi shin.
Such is the case with this one.
In the middle of this obi shin we see a length of cloth with knotted, red stitches, some intact, some removed. This is the vestige of a senninbari or a "thousand stitch belt."
A senninbari is a amulet used during war time; it was meant to protect the bearer of the senninbari from harm and to deliver him safely home. It is supposed to contain 1,000 stitched knots, each knot being placed on the cloth by a different woman.
For some reason, the stitches of the senninbari on this obi shin was picked apart, the only stitches which remain are that of a crude rendering of the Japanese flag.
Quite remarkable. And I am sure this obi shin and senninbari have many stories to tell.
The rest of the obi shin is unremarkable, as many obi shin are: unfinished, frayed lengths of cotton are hastily stitched together to create the necessary length, including a terry cloth tenugui, the type which is often worn by workers or short order cooks in Japan.
A marvelously surprising textile, and one with a mysterious history.